I’d like to believe that what recently transpired was not a mere coincidence but more like a “God wink,” encouraging me not to give up on my dreams just yet.
Although I was informed during the interview that the job in Maine would be physically demanding, I figured my yoga practice would be enough to keep me strong and able to fulfill my job responsibilities. Never did I imagine that a flare-up would cut my time short in Maine and send me driving back to New York where I have my family and access to affordable health care. My plans were changed abruptly and I was left questioning my body’s ability to continue in outdoor/farm-based education.
Towards the end of the camp season in late August, I suffered one of the worst flare-ups since the car accident in 2013. It made me question everything I had planned and envisioned for my future. The pain had started a few weeks earlier in July, when I began awakening at night to painful numbness and tingling in my arms and hands. My knee also started acting up and I was unable to put any pressure on it. I started wearing wrist splints to relieve the pain, and though it helped, that and the knee pain, made it difficult to practice yoga consistently. Then in early August, I hurt my back while turning compost, but still managed after a few days of rest, to return to work. Two weeks later, my back could no longer take the long work days and the dreadful spasms followed by sharp shooting pains returned. The pain brought tears to my eyes and all I could do was breathe through it. I felt a sense of hopelessness, helplessness, and vulnerability. Unable to walk to the dining hall, I had to ask a co-worker to bring me food. I even had to ask for help getting dressed. As I lay in bed, tears streaming down my cheeks, I thought to myself, “Am I a hopeful, naive idiot who needs to give up her dreams of working in such a demanding profession?” And I questioned my plans for motherhood, wondering, “How can I take care of a baby when taking care of myself is a struggle?”
I made the decision to leave Maine right before the start of the Fall season. The conditions were too rustic in the Fall, with no transportation of my own, and a lot fewer people onsite. The thought of being stuck in the cabin situated up a very steep hill with only bunk beds, no bathrooms, and a wood-fire stove and dealing with a flare-up terrified me.
That weekend, slowly but surely, I journeyed back to New York, taking frequent breaks to relieve my back. I needed inspiration on my car ride home and listened to the audiobook, Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I needed to believe it would still be possible to hike in Patagonia, Chile as I had originally planned for November, after finishing work in Maine. “How did I get here again?” I wondered. Was the Universe telling me to switch gears, to let go of my dreams of outdoor education and of leading an active, healthy lifestyle and helping others do the same? Several people had already suggested I change careers when they learned of my recent flare-up.
After a few weeks of bouncing from the homes of friends and family in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Long Island, I made the decision to stay on Long Island and moved back in with my brother while I recuperated. Becoming stronger and healthier is my focus now.
This life detour has brought unexpected blessings. In October, I attended a farm-based education conference at Shelburne Farms in Vermont. I was very grateful to have been awarded a scholarship to attend the conference and I received valuable guidance on a project I am working on. I was happy being back on a farm. Since I was a short, inexpensive bus ride away, I also visited the beautiful city of Montreal, Canada.
And in an interesting twist, I recently returned to my roots of early childhood education. I’m helping my cousin temporarily in her newly opened day care. I’m rediscovering my passion and expertise in caring for young children. I love taking care of the children. They are so adorable. It is physically demanding, but I take naps during my break that help me recharge and make it through the day.
About a month ago, I summoned up the courage to dream again and wrote down the things I most want to accomplish by November of next year. At the top of that list, I wrote “hiked and worked in Patagonia.” A few days later, I responded to a friend’s Facebook post of her plans to visit Easter Island, an island off the coast of Chile. She wrote back and sent me a link to an airfare deal to Chile. With hopeful anticipation, I booked my ticket to Chile that same night.
A few nights ago, I found the book, Hiking Long Island at my friend’s place. It’s as if the Universe is saying, “I am listening. And now is not the time to give up, but step out in faith and lay the foundation for the next phase of your life.”
This is a picture of me from the trip leader training in Maine back in June. Hopefully, I will soon have a picture of me backpacking through the Torres del Paine.